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Journal Journal: Sony stealth disables DRM restrictions?

In what has to be one of the most ironic twists so far in the Sony DRM debacle, a blogger named Nicholas Colyer discovered that by adding the $sys$ to the front of his CD burning software he can now copy as many CD's as he wants. No mention of any real details about the programs involved (apologies to all you hackers out there). One has to wonder, though, just how many other software restrictions can be bypassed by this useful feature? If the stealth function of the original rootkit turns out to be good for lots of other fun things, this could be a real situation for Sony. Nothing forces you to run the stealth removing patch, and I would bet that Sony didn't include an automatic update feature (in which case they would not be able to automatically disable the stealth feature from afar). Might they have to resort to cooperating with Microsoft to add a patch to the regular Windows update process?
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Journal Journal: Lithium-Ion battery with unprecedented performance 1

A press release from A123Systems announces a new lithium-ion battery technology that delivers unprecedented performance (according to them). The technology is suppose to deliver 10 times the cycle life and 5 times the power over conventional lithium technology, and only require 5 minutes to recharge to 90% capacity. And this is not a theoretical announcement -- the first batteries are now in production and being delivered to the Black & Decker Corporation, who will be utilizing them in a new line of DEWALT branded power tools. The company is also working with the U.S. Department of Energy as part of a major undertaking to develop battery materials for future use in hybrid electric vehicles. Assuming 5 times power means 5 times range (may not be the case but hey let's dream a little, ok?), an all electric car that only had a 70 mile range would be able to go more than 300 miles between charges and only take 5 minutes to recharge at the station. Might this make fuel cell cars (and hybrids) obsolete before they even get started? On a side note, there have been other promises of breakthroughs for lithium based batteries before...wonder if there is a patent lawsuit in the making? This press release is also mentioned over at Green Car Congress.
User Journal

Journal Journal: NASA has a plan for asteroid deflection

The Register is reporting that NASA has started developing a contingency plan to deflect a quarter-mile wide asteroid if indeed it looks to threaten the Earth in 2029. The asteroid formerly known as 2004MN4 has now been named 99942 Apophis. The space agency says that if the asteroid still appears to be threatening Earth by 2013, it will start work on a mission to visit Apophis with a probe in 2019. This would be followed by an attempt to deflect the asteroid some time between 2024 and 2028. NASA's plans to deflect the asteroid were first publicly revealed by the B612 Foundation.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Mazda's New Smart Idling Stop System

Now this is really thinking outside the box...Mazda is displaying a new form of an idle-stop system for direct-injection spark-ignition engines that uses combustion and the reverse operation of the engine as a restart trigger rather than an electric motor. To summarize: The Smart Idling Stop System shuts off the engine when you come to a stop. When you want to go again, the system injects fuel into the cylinder in the compression phase but not yet at the top of the compression cycle (in a four cylinder 4 stroke engine, one cylinder is always in the compression phase). Then the fuel is ignited to force the compressing piston back down in the opposite direction. This causes compression in a different cylinder which then has fuel injected and ignited, which in turn forces the engine to turn back in the normal direction and provides enough power to kick start the engine back to life. In order for everything to work, the Smart Idling Stop System forces the engine to stop in a position that is optimal for the next restart attempt. Mazda claims that the Smart Idling Stop System is more energy-efficient than an electric motor restart, and also restarts the engine more quickly and quietly than a conventional idle-stop system.
User Journal

Journal Journal: The Ultimate Flex-Fuel and Flex-Combustion Engine

Two California inventors have designed and patented the ultimate flex-fuel and flex-combustion engine: an engine that can adapt in real-time to a variety of petroleum-, bio- or gaseous-fuels using the appropriate combustion mode, including spark-ignition, compression-ignition or HCCI variants. The design eliminates the last mechanical constraint for a totally electronically controlled engine, namely the cam shaft, and allows each cylinder to be independently fine tuned in real time for a wide range of power options. Possibilities range from boosting compression for more power to using air compression only (no fuel) for braking to even storing the compressed air for extra power later on. Now all they have to do is get someone with lots of money interested in developing it further.
User Journal

Journal Journal: ALERT: YOU may be guilty of copyright infringement

This has to be the funniest thing (at least to my dry sense of humor) I've run across in a while -- and I'm not even sure these guys aren't serious. A company(?) called Magnus-Opus warns "You may be inadvertently performing one of the Magnus-Opus melody series each time you use your telecommunications device (telephone, mobile telephone, modem and other internet devices)". Fortunately, they provide a web site that lets you test any number against their database of copyrighted melodies. If you are found to infringe, they helpfully point you to their licensing page. Licenses range from "single performance" for 5 cents (per performance) to lifetime "full performance rights" costing up to $10,000. And if you don't wish to buy a license, they have a FAQ that details how you can get rid of the offending telecommunications device. Originally brought to you by an anonymous reader on Spencer Katt.
User Journal

Journal Journal: It pays to conserve energy in 2006

As reported by MSNBC, you could collect as much as $7,400 or more in tax credits if you spend a lot of money on energy saving stuff starting in 2006 and going through 2010, courtesy of the energy bill signed into law by Pres. Bush in August of this year. Here's how the credits work: Buy or lease a hybrid gas-electric vehicle and qualify for a tax credit of up to $3,400. Install solar power in your home and get up to a $4,000 tax credit. Make your home more energy efficient and get credits ranging from $50 to $500. The bill has some (IMHO) odd provisions, however. For example, [hybrid] credits are capped at 60,000 vehicles per carmaker and then start tapering off rather drastically, [and that means] they could phase out fairly quickly for companies with the best-selling hybrids. To put that into perspective, consider that Toyota is projected to sell 60,000 hybrids by the middle of 2006. Bottom line, if you're planning to buy a Prius next year, better do it before the end of May if you want to get the full tax credit...
User Journal

Journal Journal: Website seeks sex toy testers 1

What some may consider the perfect job, LoveHoney is seeking people to join The Orgasm Army and become testers for the products they sell. You only need to be 18 years or older, of sound mind and body (I think the body part is the more important requirement), and agree to their terms and conditions. No mention as to how (or if) they let you choose a partner when appropriate.
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Journal Journal: Sales of Full-Size SUVs Crater in September

GreenCarCongress reports that combined sales of full-size SUVs dropped 43.5% in September from the year before. GM and Ford, the most dependent on SUV sales, were the hardest hit, with drops of 42.5% and 54.5% respectively. Interestingly, two SUVs sold more in September: The recently discontinued Ford Excursion and the Hummer H1. Of course, anyone who buys an H1 never worried about gas milage before -- why start now?
User Journal

Journal Journal: What Is Web 2.0

Over at O'Reilly.net, Tim O'Reilly has written a rather longish article on the concept of "Web 2.0", first defined (according to Tim) during a conference brainstorming session between O'Reilly and MediaLive International sometime back in 2003. Web 2.0 centers around the concept of the Web as Platform (recent Slashdot articles about the Web as Platform). Google, of course, is the poster child for Web as Platform, being described as "an enabler or middleman between the user and his or her online experience." Other characteristics of Web 2.0 include Harnessing Collective Intelligence (example Wikipedia), Data is the Next Intel Inside (example Amazon.com's highly successful user rating system), End of the Software Release Cycle (example, Google's perpetual updates to its web indices), Lightweight Programming Models (example RSS), Software Above the Level of a Single Device (i.e. the service is accessible from a variety of devices, example accessing real time traffic updates), and Rich User Experiences (example Google Maps). A very interesting read concerning the direction the Internet is moving.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Robotic Greenhouses

Here's a predicament that happens all too often in our short term profit driven economy...tens of thousands of empty storage containers, manufactured in Asia and shipped to the US full of product, now lie stacked in towers alongside I-95 in New Jersey. The problem? They are too cheap to be shipped back to Asia but too expensive here in the US to recycle. Of course, one man's garbage is another man's business opportunity. According to Wired News, Lior Hessel of OrganiTech believes those containers would make ideal miniature robotic farms. The idea is to use OrganiTech's robotic greenhouse system to convert the containers into miniature farms that grow food close to where it is consumed, thereby saving most of the transportation cost. OrganiTech's system is entirely free of pesticides (the greenhouses keep positive air pressure inside the structure, so few if any insects can fly in) and are grown hydroponically (without soil) so nutrients, fertilizers and water requirements are one-third to one-fifth the needs of soil-grown lettuce (lettuce is used as an example for cost comparison in the article). In addition to food produced for consumption, OrganiTech is also in talks with several pharmaceutical companies to create custom "plant factories" for genetically engineered crops that produce medically useful compounds. And best of all, with the farms being entirely automated, the cost of labor would consist of a single computer technician's salary. Is there a robotic greenhouse in your future?
User Journal

Journal Journal: Sun's role in global warming may be underestimated

An announcement on EurekAlert says that at least 10 to 30 percent of global warming measured during the past two decades may be due to increased solar output rather than factors such as increased heat-absorbing carbon dioxide gas released by various human activities. This has been claimed before. This is not to say that greenhouse gasses are off the hook, but it means that climate change models need to be adjusted accordingly. I would say another piece of evidence for increased solar output may have been found by the Mars Orbiter, where surveys show for three Mars summers in a row, deposits of frozen carbon dioxide near Mars' south pole have shrunk from the previous year's size, suggesting a climate change in progress (the Mars Orbiter report was also featured in this Slashdot submission).
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Journal Journal: Smaller Cars Enjoy New Chic 2

The Washington Post has an article on the increased interest in fuel efficient cars after the recent hurricanes in the US and their affect on gas prices. It seems Toyota and Honda are struggling to keep up with demand, while GM and Ford have seen a serious drop in sales of large SUV's. Is this the start of a lasting change in the US market or is it just a knee-jerk reaction? What's the next car you plan to purchase?
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Journal Journal: Universe evolution favors 3 and 7 dimensions

In case anyone was wondering why we live in a universe with 3 infinitely long directional dimensions, Andreas Karch (University of Washington assistant professor of physics) and his collaborator, Lisa Randall (of Harvard) says it's because the natural evolution of universes (or more specifically the branes described in M-Theory) favor the eventual formation of a universe where you end up with either 3 or 7 infinite physical directions (the remaining dimensions shrink to a minuscule size). Other numbers of physical dimensions are possible, just not favored. An interesting note, the good professor implies that our universe actually contains many regions with different numbers of spatial dimensions at the same time; we just happen to live in a region that ended up with 3 spatial dimensions.

The announcement also implies that our universe is infinitely large and has big bangs happening inside it somewhere all the time. On the other hand, it has also been theorized that two branes colliding might have created what we call the universe.

Karch and Randall detail their work in the October edition of Physical Review Letters, published by the American Physical Society.

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The means-and-ends moralists, or non-doers, always end up on their ends without any means. -- Saul Alinsky